The Battle of Waterloo was fought thirteen kilometres south of Brussels between the French, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and General Blucher from Prussia. The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war beginning with the French Revolutionary wars in 1792 and continuing with the Napoleonic Wars from 1803. There was a brief eleven-month respite when Napoleon was forced to abdicate, exiled to the island of Elba.
However, the unpopularity of Louis XVIII and the economic and social instability of France motivated him to return to Paris in March 1815. The Allies soon declared war once again. Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo marked the end of the Emperor’s final bid for power, the so-called ‘100 Days’, and the final chapter in his remarkable career. The Protagonists Napoleon Bonaparte had always been driven by his desire to make France a European empire and was an experienced warlord and leader.
He had carried out a coup against the government of the First Republic of France (the ‘Directory’) in 1799 and established himself as ruler and First Consul, eventually to declare himself First Consul for life and Emperor in 1804. In 1802 the French Republic was officially ecognised and the Peace of Amiens signed. Napoleon had higher ambitions and pursued his desire to make France the most powerful country in Europe by conquering other countries including Britain.
In 1803, Britain declared war on France and the ensuing ‘Napoleonic Wars’ were fought between France and various Allied coalitions over the next 1 1 years. The Allies successfully invaded in 1814 and forced Napoleon to abdicate at the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The European powers were meeting in Vienna to re-establish the territorial balance in Europe when news came of Napoleon’s escape from Elba on 1st March 181 5 and is re-entry into Paris on 20th March. The powers immediately renewed their declaration of war on Napoleon and the 7th Coalition between Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia was formed on 25th March.